NET/TEN Shareback: Mondo Bizarro - The Timescale of the Land

Fall 2012 Seed Grant Recipient 

Mondo Bizarro (New Orleans, LA) met with the organizers of The Clear Creek Festival in Berea, Kentucky to begin plan a three-week tour of Cry You One, a site-specific community performance.  The visit included meetings and interviews with community partners and local residents.


Nick Slie of Mondo Bizarro provided NET with a reflection of his time in Berea, Kentucky at The Clear Creek Festival. The narrative and photos below provide a glimpse into the company's process of community building, engagement and tour planning. 

The Timescale of the Land
Reflections from the Clear Creek Festival in Berea, KY
by Nick Slie

I am realizing that so much manifests at Clear Creek because artists are invited to  respond to the timescale of the land, not the humming (or vortex) of a city. I am walking down a mountain.  I am singing.  I am carrying a 75 gallon cast iron pot that is filled with local vegetables and the long tears of a man who just described how this was his land.  My mind said, all we can ever hope is to be the steward of land and my heart dropped because I could see those steel tears wearing down his face.  The soft tough of that man took me home.  I saw Big Billy Zeller, a Louisiana iron man who watched his son Billy Boy die.  Billy Boy was only 13.  Big Billy never came back from that.  He kept those far away eyes his whole life.  I still see the pain in Billy’s eyes, the same pain I saw in that man on the mountain who put a poem into the stone soup.

I see things differently when I am on that Kentucky land, letting the tree tops speak to me, allowing the breath to enter slower.  It is always the past, present and future.  200 years ago is so close.  There is more space.  Well, at least I allow for more space.   It's funny how so many dreams we’ve had about Cry You One -a project being developed on marsh lands nearly 1000 miles away - have been first manifested on this land:  roving musical procession tied to ritual, group celebratory cooking, deep connection to nature, a more balanced process for art creation and a profound appreciation for my collaborators.  It is as if the land is serving as the midwife to Cry You One even before she has arrived home.

Here I am, again, here.  It is May 2013.  We are having a meeting today to discuss Mondo Bizarro’s plan to tour Cry You One to the festival in September 2013 and the next Summer of 2014.  I have been to this land every year since 2009.  We have traditionally come with creative offerings, workshops, fiddles and gumbo pots.  We have been gifted with stories, music and innumerable friendships.  Today, we are huddling over another table of food with about forty stakeholders from the community, talking about how people want to be involved in the execution of this year's Clear Creek Festival, an intentional gathering of artists, activists and healers on 86 acres of mountain land outside of Berea, Kentucky.  I am there to figure out how we can best serve the work happening during the festival with the piece we are bringing and I find myself more calm than I have been in a while, even as the enormity of the work ahead is piling in my logistics brain.   The meeting does not start on time and end shortly thereafter.  It begins when it needs to and ends when it is over.  The people in the circle today are matter of fact. They are the lifeblood of this festival.  They hold it dear and you can tell by the way their eyes animate when talking about the possibilities.  I am always amazed by how integral the community is to the success of this particular festival.  Their opinions are cherished, they are listened to and empowered to take action. 

I am given an opportunity to speak and outline the scope of what we want to offer with our latest work, Cry You One.  People have a lot to say about how it could function, what dialogues they hope it ignites and the broad range of similarities between what we face in Louisiana and Kentucky with regards to the protection of our land.  The conversations are spacious because it can be.  The touring of our full performance will not occur until the Summer of 2014.  This allows for genuine inquiry and a lovely interrogation of our intentions with Cry You One.  It allows for the requisite waste needed to create.  Nature models this every year as she drops seeds across the forest with only a precious few taking root to become plants or trees.  It is a patient process, requiring a suspension of the goals and measures brain.  That May afternoon, over pie and barbeque, we were quietly creating the beginnings of an engagement strategy for Cry You One’s visit that is patience, insightful and thorough.  It was a beginning and, like most good beginnings, it has lingered.  It felt like the start of seeking change that my friend Invincible calls, “Two inches wide and two miles deep.”  Or the change Wendell Berry seeks when he says:

“Suppose we did our work
like the snow, quietly, quietly,
leaving nothing out. “

The people who showed up were just the right people and the amount of time we spent was just the right amount.  The next day I woke, quietly, and with a better relationship to time, tiptoeing towards the city.

-Nick Slie




A little more about Cry You One: 

Cry You One - Press Release

Clear Creek Festival -


Nick Slie,

Posted by: 
Friday, August 23, 2013

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